With the upgradation of average mobiles into smartphones, the process of putting them down has become even more difficult! The constant buzzing of notifications, red lights of different apps popping up and the infinite feeds are enough to keep you distracted, all the time.
The apps and softwares on the devices are designed to hook your attention for as long as possible but the point is, are those designs helping us in any way?
Former Google design ethicist, Tristan Harris who co-founded the Center for Humane Technology raises that question. He has become one of the most outspoken critics of how devices are intentionally made to hook users at the cost of their time and comfort. Some of his alternative designs illustrate what a different app ecosystem could look like — where health and time are prioritized over constant engagement.
Are you too a victim of smartphone addiction? Well, you’re not alone. Over 2.5 billion people have smartphones and are having a hard time putting them down. The problem is, smartphones are designed to keep us engaged i.e they are intentionally addicting. But if you learn to understand the science behind the tricks that grab your attention, you can have a healthier relationship with your phone. These tricks are not designed to help us but to just keep us hooked.
So, how would you fix the design on your smartphone that is keeping you engaged?
The first step begins with turning off all the notifications except for when a real person is trying to reach you. When you get a text or call from a person, it is usually because the person wants to talk to you. However, when we talk of today’s apps, they are designed especially for stimulating the feeling of social interaction, to get you spend more time on their platform.
For instance, if Facebook sends you a push notification for a friend who has checked-in in a newly-inaugurated coffee shop near you, then that person is acting as a puppet master grasping your desire for social interactions so that you use the app more!
But it would be strange for you to know that push notifications didn’t always worked this way. When push notifications were first introduced in Blackberry for email in 2003, they were actually introduced to make you check your smartphone less. You could easily see the emails as they came in, so you didn’t have to constantly open your mail by refreshing the inbox.
Today you can get a lot of notifications from every app in your device, so every time you check your device, you get a bag full of notifications that can make you feel too many emotions at the same time. It works on a simple logic : If it was predictably good or bad, you wouldn’t have got addicted to it. The predictability can remove the addictiveness and it’s effective.
Some apps have replicated the feature of pulling up a slot machine lever to pulling up the refresh button so that your feed keeps on refreshing and you get to see new things every time. The apps equipped with these features are capable of constantly updating content, trapping you in a vicious cycle of seeing fresh content again and again. The pull action or the act of refreshing creates an addictive illusion of having a control over that process.
The easiest way for a human eye to grab attention is through colours, since human eyes are sensitive to warm colours. This is why most of the apps have redesigned their logos to be more brighter, warmer and colourful. It is for the same reason why slot machines are colourful with bright lights popping up and rays flashing all around your eyes. For instance, you can compare the before and after logos of apps like Instagram, Airbnb, Google and so on. This is also one of the reasons why notification lights are red (because it pops up and catches our attention).
However, you can neutralize the distracting effect of colours by changing your smartphone’s accessibility setting with grayscale filter. Turning your smartphone colourless can make your brain think that this is no more important.
Finally, the last thing that you need to do is get rid of unnecessary apps on your homescreen. Your should restrict your homescreen to everyday tools. Make sure when you have your homescreen unlocked, it should have only those apps that will help you live your life to the fullest. For example – call button, messages, calendars, maps, alarm etc. None of these apps can make you linger for things that you don’t even want!
Infinite scrolling loads new content every time, so there is no in-built endpoint. Video autoplay works in a similar way. These interfaces create a frictionless experience for the user but also give them the power to control by stopping the next video from being played.
So, ask yourself this question, what’s actually worth your attention? Do you even know how to answer it?
Megha Harsh serves as a content writer at The Ideaz Factory. She has been a student of English Journalism at the Indian Institute of mass communication. A writer by day and reader by night, she is loathe to discuss herself in third person. In addition to writing blogs, she also has interest in writing poems.